And you thought the Calgary Flames were bad on the second of a back-to-back against a clearly superior opponent?
The Canucks may have taken the early lead, but it was off of a total fluke goal. Though Brian Elliott really didn’t have to do much all night – he only faced 14 shots, one of which just went flying in above him out of nowhere – he was strong on the night.
And it was his teammates limiting the number of shots he had to face, period. The Flames, in all situations, out-corsied the Canucks 65-37, outshot them 37-14, and out-chanced them 38-14. And this was throughout the entire game, although score effects did creep in during the third period and hit their 5v5 numbers.
But that was so inconsequential in this one. Vancouver was never, at any point, in it. Even when the Flames got smoked against the Sharks in their own second of a back-to-back earlier in the week, they at least hung around throughout the entire first period; the Canucks didn’t even have that much going from them.
They were crushed from the start, no mercy. Via HockeyStats.ca:
At the very least, I would hope that inspires some confidence. The Flames are still progressing in their rebuild, yes, but they definitely aren’t “worst team in the NHL” bad.
The hero of the holidays
The past two years, right before the holiday break, Johnny Gaudreau was the hero. First, he scored a hat trick to singlehandedly drag the Flames up from a 3-0 deficit; then, he scored a less-dramatic hat trick, but still a hat trick all the same.
Before Gaudreau came around, the Flames had to end their pre-holiday break with this guy playing the hero.
Wow, Backlund’s hair was way longer back then.
Giordano both opened the scoring and subsequently teased us with the idea of his first career hat trick throughout the night. It wasn’t to be, and he had to settle for merely the fourth two-goal game of his career, but he had a lot of chances.
Giordano wasn’t the only Flame to have a multi-point night; Michael Frolik, and Dougie Hamilton had two points each, too, while Mikael Backlund had a three-point game.
Just to take quick stock of the Flames’ scoring stats: Hamilton has now tied Sean Monahan for second in team scoring with 20 points each, six points up on Giordano, the Flames’ second-highest scoring defender. (Oh, and how good was Hamilton on the backcheck on Giordano’s first goal? That was awesome.) Backlund (and Matthew Tkachuk) are tied for fourth with 19 points each, while Frolik snapped a nine-game pointless drought to tie Troy Brouwer and Sam Bennett with 17.
There haven’t been any real stars when it comes to putting up points, just a lot of team efforts. The Flames are inching closer to the middle of the pack in league standings for goals per game.
Gaudreau was unlucky to not score
All that said, Gaudreau still leads the Flames in scoring – just not by that great a gap. He probably would have increased it last night had he been just a tad luckier.
Gaudreau led the charge from the get-go, and had enough chances that he probably could have gotten another hat trick had anything gone in for him. Although that one wide open missed net in the first period was probably the most painful missed opportunity, in part because the Flames were still down 1-0 and even though they were clearly outplaying their opponent, sometimes nonsense just happens in hockey, and in part because come on, dude.
It’s still notable, though, that on a night with quite a few multi-point players, Gaudreau was just as noticeable as the rest of them – even without picking up a single point of his own.
He got double shifted thanks to Troy Brouwer’s injury, sharing the ice with his usual linemates in Bennett and Alex Chiasson, plus a fair amount of time with Monahan and Micheal Ferland, too.
Considering how both Bennett and Monahan feel like plausible options to be his centre, it’s probably worth noting – at least in this game – that he had the better corsi alongside Bennett with fewer offensive zone starts. Buyer beware of small sample size, but still worth nothing from a single-game perspective.
That other hotshot young forward, though…
Five teams had the chance to draft Tkachuk before he fell to the Flames.
I think we can forgive Toronto and Winnipeg for saying thanks but no thanks; that seems to be working out for them. The others, though?
At least in the lead up to the game there was a fair amount of talk about how Tkachuk fell into the Canucks’ laps, only for them to take his junior teammate in Olli Juolevi instead. Reportedly, they didn’t really consider Tkachuk much of an option for them at all. And that’s fine – not every big forward is going to turn into, say, Jake Virtanen – but what a night for Tkachuk to show what he can do.
He scored the empty netter to seal the victory, he led the way with five shots on net, and in general created total havoc for the Canucks. He didn’t even get to pick up a point on Backlund’s goal, which is a shame, because seriously, let’s watch that entire sequence again.
16 seconds of destruction a-la-Tkachuk (that’s pie with Tkachuk): pic.twitter.com/44BCqwYsHh
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) December 24, 2016
What an ass.
He’s sixth in league-wide rookie scoring now, too.
The Flames enter the holiday break with a 18-16-2 record. That’s just barely above .500, which isn’t an impressive marker in this league, but at least they’re at that much – especially considering their start to the season.
They aren’t technically a playoff team, but they’re as close as they can get without it, directly behind Nashville in points percentage: .530 for the Preds, .528 for the Flames.
Still lots of season to be played.